While the intellectual formation of pastors is dominated by philosophy and theology, their pastoral duties also require something beyond the intellectual and spiritual aspects — a business component.
The Pastoral Leadership Institute has developed a curriculum to train priests in business and an administration skills, enabling pastors to better understand the financial properties of a parish.
Seminaries “have so much other stuff to cover, that they’re required by the diocese to cover, that they frankly don’t have time to cover this very important topic,” said Charles Zech, an economics professors at Villanova University, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Zech, who has studied parochial finances, has noted that there is often little oversight, which lends an opportunity to both embezzlement and error.
“The diocese should be doing ongoing education for both the clergy and the laity not only to prevent embezzlement, but just to prevent people from making honest mistakes,” he said.
The curriculum was developed by the archdiocese’s director of shared accounting, Jerry Amsler, with the help of an assistant professor at Saint Louis University, Neil Jenson.
According to an article by St. Louis Post-Dispatch, priests used to wait 15 years before they become the pastor of a parish, but because of a shortage in priests, men are having to take on the role much sooner.
The program gives pastors practical tutorials to quickly learn the business aspect of parish life. Custom made for priests, the program consists of five online sessions, three in-person sessions, and assignments based on the priest’s own parish financial records.
Currently, the program only includes a financial training, but it looks to expand into marketing, human resources, and other parish operations as well.
Additionally, Amsler expressed hope that more instructors would be hired and the program would be made available to more priest throughout the nation. The program is now paid by the Archdiocese of St. Louis, but he will be presenting the program to the U.S. Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference in September.